Chief Justice Ivor Archie will deliver his address virtually on Wednesday for the ceremonial opening of the 2020/2021 law term after he had to postpone it for a week because he should have been in quarantine.
Last week, a release from the Judiciary explained that the Judiciary’s medical team told the Chief Justice he should have gone into self-quarantine when he was exposed to a covid19 patient.
The statement said the Chief Justice was tested and “fortunately was not impacted by the virus.”
Because of the medical advice, Archie postponed his virtual address by a week. His address will be broadcast on state owned-TTT and on the Judiciary’s social media pages on Facebook and You Tube.
Traditionally, the law term would have opened on September 16 with a church service, a procession by judges, an inspection of the guards outside the Hall of Justice and the CJ’s address at the Convocation Hall.
But because of the pandemic the court’s six-week-long vacation for the 2019/2020 term was abolished and the new term began on October 1.
Traditionally, the Chief Justice’s speech gives an account of the Judiciary’s performance over the past term and lets him announce new projects for the new term.
It is possibly the first time a Chief Justice is giving an address after the budget presentation.
According to the public sector investment programme (PSIP) document, $75.4 million was allocated for improving and refurbishing court facilities. In fiscal 2021, there are expected to be upgrades to the criminal courts at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain, with $3 million to modify the building to accommodate criminal courts, while $1 million will be spent to for rehabilitating the Tobago High Court.
Investments totaling $5 million will be provided to upgrade magistrates’ courts throughout TT, which includes expanding the San Fernando district court.
Tobago will have its own family court, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced in his 2021 budget presentation on Monday.
Imbert also announced the use of more virtual courts and the PSIP document said $8.6 million will be provided to accommodate eight video conferencing rooms at the Golden Grove prison in Arouca.
There will be an additional $32 million under the infrastructure development fund for renovating several courthouses, including the San Fernando High Court and relocating the civil divisions of both the High Court and the Appeal Court from the Hall of Justice to Tower D at the International Waterfront Complex.
Upgrades to the San Fernando Supreme Court building willinclude improvements to the electrical system, air conditioning and ICT systems, and roof repairs.
The Family and Children Court division will receive $4 million to expand ICT systems in Port of Spain; do remedial work in Fyzabad; and outfit the building in Tobago, while $3 million will be allocated to expand the family court’s services in Port of Spain, Arima and Tobago. The San Fernando family court will get a new wing.
The PSIP document said in fiscal 2020, $67.3 million was allocated for providing suitable accommodation for several ministries. Out of that, the Judiciary benefited from the construction of duplexes for judicial officers in Tobago in Signal Hill, where judges and their staff will stay while there. Some of the money was also used to outfit facilities for the Director of Public Prosecutions in Port of Spain and San Fernando and to facilitate the introduction of a Public Defenders Office under the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority.
Also in the last fiscal year, the Judiciary spent $52.6 million to upgrade court facilities throughout TT.
Archie has come under fire for his covid19 rules for court operations, which ban in-person hearings to protect court users and staff from the coronavirus. He is expected to discuss alternative arrangements being developed to accommodate jury trials and taking evidence from witnesses.